Can the EU manage
the dynamics of absorbing the poorer, low-wage economies of
Challenge goes to the depth of Europe's integration. When
and at what point will nation-states draw the line at pooling
Proposals for a new EU constitution shape as a potential
breaking point, with plans for much greater convergence
of foreign and defence policies and even talk of uniform
taxes. Britain is to put this to a referendum. Others may
A series of "no" votes would not be fatal, but
it would mean winding back significantly the ambition for
Europe to speak and act as one, especially in the realm
of global power politics. That being so, it might not be
prudent to talk just yet about junking the Atlantic alliance.
Perhaps the most troubling challenge for the EU goes to
the question of identity - what are the outer limits of
this process of expansion? Where do the frontiers stop,
and who will be left out?
There are three important arguments for integration: 1)
integration lowers the risks of war; 2) removing national
trade barriers results in economic growth; 3) in an era
of free trade only political integration can save democracy.
The second argument has been crucial for the development
of what was once called the European Economic Community.
In the first decades after World War II, the first argument
was also very important and especially French fears of Germany
still make it an important "raison d'etre". The
third argument, protecting democracy, has not been completely
neglected by European officials: president Delors of the
European Commission has repeatedly called for a "Social
Europe"; with the "Single Act" (1986), social
policies and environmental protection have become an official
objective of the Twelve; protection against American "cultural
imperialism" was one of the reasons why Europeans endlessly
prolonged negotiations about the last GATT-agreement (1994).
Nevertheless the protection of democracy in the EU has not
been given much priority; from the beginning the advocates
of European integration concentrated on the removal of trade
In the coming decade only emergencies like leviathan unemployment,
extremely confused and dissatisfied voters, environmental
catastrophes or warfare in Europe will perhaps persuade
Europeans of the need for further, deeper, integration.
On the other hand, all of these emergencies have already
occurred in the early 1990s -a rise in xenophobia, humiliating
defeats for ruling parties, environmental pollution, a bloody
war in Bosnia -, only to result in a new period of "Euro-pessimism".